Do you want to unlock all the secrets of perfume? Go to Grasse, on the Côte d'Azur, and visit its must-see International Perfume Museum for a multi-sensory experience and a peek at exceptional collections. Come along and trace the history of perfume, but also soaps, makeup and cosmetics on a unique journey to the world.
Welcome to Grasse, the world capital of perfume. Founded in 1989, the International Perfume Museum—MIP, for insiders—was freshened up last spring, a few months after the inscription of Grasse's perfumes on UNESCO's World Heritage List (External link) .
Entirely redesigned, the museography tells us the story of this unique craft and guides us through the centuries that have marked the evolution of perfumery, from ancient times to the present day.
The whole history of perfume
Using a multisensory approach, which mixes visual aids (films, photos, texts) with an olfactory device made of more than one hundred perfumes and flowers, we first learn that the history of perfume began in Egypt when the priests, considered the first perfumiers, created special preparations for ritual ceremonies and the royal court.
The uses of perfume later expanded, becoming part of daily life to heal and scent people's houses. But it was under the rule of Julius Caesar that the use of perfume reached its peak—at this time, the Romans associated a perfume with each deity.
A sweet scent of seduction
Precious objects made from rare materials, such as alabaster, glazed earthenware, ceramics and blown glass take visitors to another era: the Renaissance.
The perfume then takes on another function—that of seducing. Then, people would change perfumes every day, and their increasingly sophisticated containers became real jewels worn as pendants.
The journey continues to rooms devoted to modern and contemporary periods: perfume becomes an industrial and global product, going from being exceptional to common, and a product for all social classes.
Rose, jasmine, lavender and orange blossom
To trace these five centuries of history and help protect this precious heritage, the museum tackles the history of fragrances in all its aspects—raw materials, industry, design—and all its uses—decorative arts, archaeological evidence and industrial materials.
The process of making perfume, from the plant to the finished product, is also detailed. Roses, jasmine, lavender, geraniums, orange blossoms; indeed, perfumes are born first in plant, domestic or abroad. In the unique setting of the Gardens of the International Perfume Museum, visitors can discover and feel all these species that have provided the precious materials of perfumery for centuries.